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Report: WWE's Vince McMahon agreed to pay $12 million in 'hush money' to four women

The payments were to "suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity."

The Wall Street Journal has uncovered more hush-money payments made by WWE boss Vince McMahon.

The outlet reported on Friday that McMahon agreed to pay more than $12 million over the past 16 years to "suppress allegations of sexual misconduct and infidelity, an amount far larger than previously known."

The $12 million was paid to four women who were formerly affiliated with WWE, including the former paralegal McMahon had an affair with who was at the center of the story the Wall Street Journal broke last month. The Wall Street Journal first reported in June that McMahon was under investigation by the WWE Board of Directors over that $3 million pact.

The largest uncovered sum of money paid out was a $7.5 million settlement to a former WWE wrestler who claimed that McMahon "coerced her into giving him oral sex and then demoted her and, ultimately, declined to renew her contract in 2005 after she resisted further sexual encounters, according to people familiar with the matter." The wrestler and her attorney approached McMahon in 2018 and negotiated the $7.5 million payment "in return for her silence."

The other two previously unreported payouts were both for approximately $1 million.

"In another previously unreported deal, a WWE contractor presented the company with unsolicited nude photos of Mr. McMahon she reported receiving from him and alleged that he had sexually harassed her on the job, according to people familiar with the woman’s 2008 nondisclosure agreement. Mr. McMahon agreed to pay her roughly $1 million, these people said," the Wall Street Journal wrote.

"And in a 2006 agreement, a former manager who had worked 10 years for Mr. McMahon before he allegedly initiated a sexual relationship with her was paid $1 million to keep quiet about it, according to people familiar with the deal."

The settlements prohibit the women from discussing their relationship with McMahon or potential legal claims.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the $3 million deal with the former paralegal and the 2018 settlement with the former wrestler are both being investigated by the WWE Board of Directors, but the Wall Street Journal couldn't determine how far back the investigation will go or if it will include the two other payouts. The Wall Street Journal's report noted that a spokesman for the board’s independent directors declined to comment.

The investigation also includes whether WWE head of talent relations John Laurinaitis had a sexual relationship with the former paralegal, as well as a $1.5 million nondisclosure agreement reached with a different former employee in 2012 "involving misconduct claims against Mr. Laurinaitis."

"Mr. Laurinaitis, a former wrestler known as Johnny Ace, had been head of WWE talent relations for eight years when he was forced to step down in 2012 and take a smaller role at the company," the Wall Street Journal wrote. "His demotion came around the same time as the $1.5 million deal with the employee, who alleged she had an affair with Mr. Laurinaitis and that he demoted her after she broke it off, people familiar with the nondisclosure agreement said."

Laurinaitis and an attorney for McMahon both did not respond to the Wall Street Journal's requests for comment. McMahon's attorney Jerry McDevitt stated in the original story that the former paralegal hadn’t made any claims of harassment against McMahon and that “WWE did not pay any monies” to her “on her departure.”

A WWE spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that the company is cooperating with the Board of Directors' investigation.

Laurinaitis was placed on administrative leave last month, with Bruce Prichard now serving as interim head of talent relations.

McMahon announced on June 17 that he was voluntarily stepping down as WWE chairman and CEO while the Board of Directors completes its investigation. Stephanie McMahon has been named interim chairwoman and CEO.

Despite temporarily stepping down from those positions, Vince McMahon has remained in charge of WWE creative and has made multiple appearances on WWE television in recent weeks.

Update --

WWE issued the following memo to its employees following the publication of Friday's Wall Street Journal report:

The Wall Street Journal has published a second story with expanded details on its initial WWE report last month. We want to reiterate that we and our Board of Directors take these allegations seriously.

We’ve been cooperating fully with the investigation led by our Board of Directors and will continue to do so until its conclusion. Please note that upon its conclusion, WWE leadership will make itself available to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you.